Buzz on a budget: Three sure-fire ways that businesses can get good publicity inexpensively

by Eddie Reeves on

Small and medium-sized businesses are always under pressure to do more with less, but in this tough economy they often have to do more with almost nothing. Fortunately, there are some smart but cheap ways to generate favorable attention that will help the cash register ring. Here are three that I have helped my clients with to great success:

1. Public Speaking

This tried and true technique still works — if you work it. Come up with a topic that is related to your business and offer to speak to the monthly meeting of the local Kiwanis, Rotary, the American Business Women’s Association, etc. The engagement will give you an audience with many existing or new potential customers. An added bonus: You and your business are also likely to garner some positive publicity prior to the event. Many of these groups announce speakers with news releases and in their newsletters.

I go a step further for my clients by working to generate additional publicity after the speech. For example, you might distribute a short survey of no more than 5-6 questions before the luncheon. Gather them at the end along with the contact info for the audience members. When you have gathered survey results from several different groups, you can aggregate them and issue a news release about the broader views of the community as a whole — guaranteed to get at least a bit of coverage!

2. Special Events

Hosting a special event can be a great way to generate publicity. The key is to choose the event with an eye toward what your target customer is likely to have some interest in.  Simple, but often neglected.

There are many ways to promote the event for little or no cash outlay. Most newspapers and many websites have special sections dedicated to community events, and local weeklies and trade circulars are especially good prospects since they are usually eager to get all the free content they can.

While traditional events like ribbon-cuttings and open houses still have some value, I often push my clients toward events that don’t seem quite so self-serving. For example, you could draw a good crowd with a town hall meetings with the police chief or a celebratory event of some local school club or community group that has scored a major achievement. Even though you are not the official “star of the show”, if you execute it correctly, you will certainly share in the “halo” of positive feelings.

3. Cause Marketing

While many companies engage in charitable or “cause”  marketing, most of them miss a strategic way to make an even greater impact: Always try to find charitable activity through which you not just position your company as a good corporate citizen, but also engage your customers directly.

For instance, if you run a local gym, you might host a fundraising event where your members compete in a treadmill marathon to benefit the neighborhood food pantry. You provide the venue, which costs you nothing except maybe a few extra hours of staff time, and, if you do it right, your likely to get some free advertising in the form of onsite media coverage.

These are just three quick examples, but there are countless other ways to get “buzz” on a budget that will translate into bucks in the bank. All that’s required is for you or your marketing or PR rep to get those creative juices flowing!

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